Monday, May 25, 2015

Brain tone, with headstand

While preparing a quiz on the brain for rediff.com, I made some new discoveries about our good old brain that seems to show why doing the headstand keeps your mentally spry.
No, the research was not talking about the headstand -- I was just linking the dots and came up with this amazing insight:)
* When there is more blood rush to the brain, the myelin sheath, which is around the axon or brain cell, is protected. Damage to it is what causes age-related diseases (Alzheimer's, memory loss)
* More blood to the brain meant more white matter volume: white matter was related to learning, cognitive skills, co-ordinations, speed of firing between the cells. I think of this as young muscles for the brain.
* More blood meant more neurotrophic factors which helped regenerate new brain cells.
* More blood meant the new cells, which otherwise die when remaining unchallenged, get to live longer and help your brain become more plastic.
* It meant that you could ward off the problems of stress which literally eats/suffocates your brain cells to death.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Yoga powers

I have always struggled with remembering this. And I like to believe that this has to do with the advice of all sadgurus that as your practice advances, you are likely to get siddhis. But you ignore them, the way a sadhu rejects the overtures of attractive women.

Any case, over the years I recollect the first four, and the last four have evaded me the minute I shut the text from where I am trying to learn them. I realize that there is something odd there, as if I do not want to know of these other fours. I have my own reasons for that guess, but I am not sharing that here. But check below if you have any of these powers listed below, as amongst the eight siddhis/powers(ashtha siddhis) that come from a regular yoga practice. And if you do find that you are really powered, keep quiet and do not discuss it with anybody, because that would mean upside down wisdom (viparitajnana)


* Anima -- Reduce oneself as little as possible
* Mahima - To grow big, as one wishes
*Laghima - To become light
* Garima -To become heavy
* Prapti - To go where one wishes
* Prakamya - To get what one desires
* Istva- To become Lord of all
* Vastva - To control everybody

You can imagine real leaders in earlier times had to do yoga if they were to be effective at all. Nowadays, I don't know if anybody relates to the esoteric art of yoga..

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Which direction must you face while doing yoga or meditation? Quiz

Which side  should your head face while doing yogic practices or meditation?
 
Choose any from the following, to find out your spiritualism quotient
* North
*South
* East
* West
 
 

Answer: Oops! The illustration has given away the answer.. look carefully.
Yes it is the north. And also, often the east.
Let's get to the science behind it. This is based on the Vastu shashtra(Indian science of architecture designed to maximize the flow of  cosmic energy) , which in turn connects and aligns with the modern day science of the earth magnetic poles. If you understand a bit about pineal gland, it is said to "feel" the earth's magnet. While there are naysayers who feel this is  hocus-pocus, actually science shows that in mass migration of animals across the earth, often in territories that is strange to them, the pineal gland acts as the "guide".
So, in all spiritual practices (even stimulation of the mind in creative and intellectual work), facing north (or east) works best because the energy shifts upwards in a positive way. You have connected with the entire energy of the universe by tapping the direction of its flow. Wow, what an exciting idea.
 

Yoga injuries? Read on ...



All you hardcore yoga fans who tried my quiz, hurray!
Its super cool that you tried it -- but did you get the right answer -- well, if you clicked cerebellum,  you are right!

And for some more, to whet your appetite for yoga --
Here is a piece, with my quotes, on yoga injuries and how to avoid them, in today's Mumbai Mirror. Click here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Yoga IQ: the least you should know about yoga-brain link

Try this quiz to check your yoga quotient.
This part of your body is engaged in balancers.
It is also related to
* learning
* memory
*impulse control
* reflexive reactions
*and of course, a state of emotional balance

Now find out here

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet success, in the sugar cane pos pose

I am excited that not a day goes by, when I do not learn a new yoga name or a new pose, or a new variation of an old pose, or even a challenging new way to enter an old pose. Even more exciting for me is how I can make almost all my students reach poses that appear daunting. That all I want from them, is the will to do it,and it may be attempted.

This is part of the thrill of being a yoga teacher. And now, as new students come I am less daunted at their awkwardness with their bodies or their disconnect, because I know that my guru's grace is going to get them to pass through this stage easily enough:)



The sugarcane pose (chapasana) in its many variations -- from top let, side plant, mountain, cat, standing forward bend (setuasana, parvatasana, vyagrasana, uttanasana).

It is a lovely challenging pose. I realize it works the oblique with intricate intensity (especially in the side plank), opens the hips in all its variations, and tremendously challenges your senseof balance. In the cat stretch, there is also the easier version of holding ankle with the opposite hand (unlike here, with the same right hand holding right ankle). So, it apparently has endless possibilities.
On the emotional level, it offers:
  1. Exhilaration (it is quite interesting to note that most poses which challenge the "love handle" muscles have this impact).
  2. A keen sense of adventure.
  3. Playfulness (because you must be prepared to fall and pick upin the learning stages).
  4. Stability, groundedness.
  5. An openness of the mind (otherwise most stretches are difficult if you are learning later in life:)
  6. Focus.
  7. Internalisation/involution of the mind.
  8. Fearlessness (a lot of fear comes from how harshly we judge ourselves as beginners/or when we fall and much of the injuries on the mat come from either a lack of focus or extreme ego).
  9. A love for precision and structure, and therefore clarity of thinking.
  10. Pure stamina of the spirit.
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eka pada galavasan is an ankle crusher!

This pose remains one of my most challenging ones, and also a work in progress. Some days, I feel I have lifted the back leg high. But when I take an image of the pose (selfies do have some uses:) it appears as if the leg is curving too much to denote strength.

So, yes, it is a very difficult pose to master and the pain in the ankle, to which I feel a strong resistance, has to be withstood before I proceed ahead.

But this is the first time, today, I caught on to all the mistakes I've been making and that makes it an interesting pose to relearn.

* It is better entered from a squatting upright position, even if you must use a blocks. This is a lighter entry.
* But here different sets of muscles get used. From a squat, you use upper back (which is possible for many yoga practitioners) but from a standing position you need pure hip strength, and a peculiar band of muscle along the hip. So, you may have to struggle with this stage -- with the leg bent --  for a while before you develop muscle memory and strength for that.

* The foot locks itself on the arm. It is better than getting it crushed mindlessly (as I managed to do till now!).The foot is not under the chest, but curved around the arm, in a hook.

* The shin bone of the bent leg also creates a pressing lock and that is how the leg does not slide off.

*It is better to learn strength with the back leg bent and do it for longer than crave an instant lift that is never satisfying and does not give you the right muscle memory.

This pose has taught me that sometimes it is better to unlearn everything and start afresh, with the mind cleansed of the mistakes and from another place (of entry) so the mind is not cluttered by memories that get in the way.

Happy sadhana!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Now the left nostril impact!

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We saw the right nostril impact (sympathetic nervous system triggered), pressure in eye decreases, blinking increases, heart beat increases, right lung preferentiality, increases blood sugar, verbal performance improved.

NOW FOR THE LEFT NOSTRIL IMPACT:
* Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system.
* SPATIAL PERFORMANCE IMPROVED.
* Lowers blood sugar.
*Reduces blink rate.
*Increases intraocular pressure
*Decreases heart rate.
*Inflates left lung preferentiality


(From Yoga as Medicine), a Yoga Journal book, by Timothy McCall, M.D.

The image of moon used because left nostril breathing is said to awaken the moon/cooling energy of the ida nadi.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five powerful effectts you surely did not know about right nostril breathing

(Have used the ardhanareshwar image, because it is often used to illustrate the Right-Left nostril/brain balancing in yogic breathing practices)

I have purchased this exciting book Yoga As Medicine  by Timothy McCall,M.D.( a Yoga Journal book) and this is what I found out. Many of you already know that right nostril breathing stimulates the left brain, and therefore verbal skills, and also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.

But here is more:
* Increases blood sugar levels
*Increases blinking rate
* Decreases eye pressure
* Increases heart rate.
*Inflates right lung preferentially.

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Five tips to get a smooth forward bend: paschimottanasana deconstructed


A yoga practice is incomplete without a perfect seated forward bend. And it will,for many of us, remain a work in progress.

Here are five tips from the one still cleaning up this most exciting, soothing and spiritual of all poses. Btw in all classic sequences and ancient yogic texts, this pose is always a fixture.

  • Do the butterfly or titaliasana regularly to open the hips up. It is the tightness at the hips that sets off shooting pain at the knees.
  • When you move into the pose, do not immediately start to exert or push. This will create a reflexive contraction at the joints which will mess up your intention towards more joint flexibility.
  • Always move very lightly and one-mm at a time more deeply, into the pose. This will help you reach the pose faster.
  • VISUALISE. Most people think of effort only from the body. Yoga is a lot of what happens in your own mind. Visualise that you have reached the pose. Imagine that you can feel the texture of your yoga pants with your chin or nose or face .. you'll be pleasantly surprised that you can actually reach low enough to do that.
  • Avoid bouncing : it creates the same reflexive contraction and makes you tighter.
Happy sadhana!
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Side crow,parsva bakasana: From high to low


The basic side crow possibly, for me, is one of the toughest arm balancers.
The variations that come from it, push up the ante,even more.

Not many people really crack it step-by-step. A few tips to enter this pose neatly:

* Stand up to enter the pose instead of trying it from a seated squat.
* Do side-planks to strengthen each wrist and forearm.
* Be prepared for the surprise shift into one arm when you enter the pose.
* Unless you stress the forearm, through regular practice,even if only for a short time, your arms will never understand the special strength needed for it.
* Never forget the most important thing: maintain a focal point on which to fix your eyes. This will somehow make your mind calm enough to enter it more confidently.

Happy sadhana!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Ask yourself this Chakra questions and track the one out of balance

I keep picking up the Bible MBS series -- a compilation of specific topics. So,yes, though it started off with the Yoga Bible which is very good, the collection has now grown to include several things, including if I confess, Fairies Bible:)
But there are similar books in the market. So, I had picked up this Essential Guide to Chakras(by Swami Saradananda)
... a rather excellent book on the topic. This is very compact and very practical. Some of the books, even for a yoga freak and an avid reader like me, can be rather abstruse. Like the Laya Yoga by Shyam Sunder Goswami which is very educated but too intricate for excited reading. It is more of a scholarly book and needs that bent of mind.

Here I picked a few questions from the book which may help you track an imbalance in a specific chakra for you. What I liked about the books was of course these set of questions, plus how the topic was presented in an accessible manner. I am very excited by the book because of how of the practical ways you can access info on your chakra imbalances and rectify them on your own. It is amazing!


Mooladhara: Do I feel as if I do not belong?
Swadhisthana: Do I feel stuck in my life?
Manipura:  You notice you are apologizing too frequently?
Anahata: You are unable to accept compliments gracefully or believe them fully?
Vishuddha: YOu have to have the last word?Or too timid to speak up?
Ajna: Do I tend to set too high a standard?
 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Spikenard aroma oil: a spiritual oil, for the yogi

(Image from this site https://explorepharma.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/nardostachys_jatamansi.jpg)

I had bought this oil, almost absentmindedly, a year ago. It was packed well I guess, and has retained its earthy flavor/aroma.I unearthed it yesterday and decided to check out its healing value. And found out very exciting things about it. And to complete this serendipity, I also find that it is a solar plexus oil --helps to harmonise this center. And I've been thinking a lot about this center lately. So, its a lovely way to wind up the weekend, luxuriating to the idea of meditating with this oil.

Some things I found out:
* It was used by Mary, to anoint the feet of Christ, before the arrest.
* It helps lower the bad cholesterol, increase the good ones.
* balances estrogen.
* anti-depressant.
* helps balance heart and solar plexus.
* used in several ancient cultures for spiritual and meditative purposes.
* Sedative

It seems as if this oil was created for me. But despite having it in my cupboard for it, I discover it only now! Strange are the ways of karma:)


 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Obesity: a yoga perspective

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I have been trying to drop two kgs for the last one year or so. I reach a lovely state when it is gone, and then, again, over a few days, it is back again. Its been very intriguing not so much for the aesthetic value of being slim but simply because it seems to happen on its own -- and I've wondered how this happens, with someone as watchful as I. Where does the fat come from, if not from the food alone:)!!

So, I thought I will leave the usual pathway of seeing it from the perspective of a nutritionist/exercise freak/dieter and instead see it from the psycho-somatic bird view, rarely assumed by anybody.

This is what I unearthed

*Doreen Virtue, who writes on metaphysical stuff, in her books suggests that fat is used by the individual to protect oneself against perceived threat. Really, this makes some sense to me. You may not be expecting an UFO attack, but I think some of us who are extra-over-sensitive may have this problem. It is worth examining this connection.
* Louise L. Hay, the best-selling author and alternative healer, believes that fat is due to oversensitivity. It is a form of protection. It may also be a cover for anger. And a resistance to forgive.
* Hay believes that fat on different parts of the body may represent different types of anger.
*Dr Swami Karmananda of the Bihar school of yoga believes that obesity may be of two kinds, as they happen in two types of personality. In the competitive person, food becomes the channel to release pent-up energy. In the other type of person, arising from boredom. In either case, it arises from frustration and unfulfilled creative energy.

So basically, there seems to be some sort of consensus amongst these writers from different walks of life -- that overeating/fat deposits could be due to unfulfilled creative outlet, anger, fear and hypersensitivity.

It is an intriguing way to look at weight control and perhaps a lot more success would be achieved if weight control was tweaked from this angle.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ten differences between the shoulderstand and the psychic union pose


Here are the differences between these two poses, which intriguingly enough, are often taught as one is many classes. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana ) and Psychic union pose (Viparita Karani mudrasana)

Shoulderstand / SARVANGASANA
* More advanced -- it is the later stage of viparita karani mudra. You have to transit the VKM first to reach this.
* Tremendous pressure at the throat, deliberately induced to create the jalandhara bandha or chin lock. This lock prevent the leakage of nervous energy upwards.
* Difficult to hold for long, unless you practice it regularly.
* Cannot be done with a prop.
* Increases pressure on thyroid and is used to harmonize this gland and correct imbalance of hypothyroidism
* For same reason, helps lose weight naturally.
* Stresses the neck in a positive way, but must not be attempted while having cervical problems.
* The neck and shoulders take the brunt of the pose.
* Contraindicated in certain problems, including blood pressure or cardiac issues.


Psychic union pose/VIPARITAKARANI MUDRASANA
* Could be a preparatory pose for shoulderstand, though it is a complete pose in itself. Mastery in it is essential to reach sarvangassana
*: Less pressure at the throat. Is easier on the neck, and more pressure at the lower back
* Duration in it may be progressively increased to great lengths, even for those not very adept at other inversions. To even five minutes or more.
* Can be done with props -- a wall, bolster, chair etc..
* Has  a mild impact on the thyroid, but not as intense as sarvagasana.
* Helps weight loss, but not as intensely as sarvangasana.  A lot of heavy waisted women hold this pose comfortably, and may not effectively use it as a weight loss pose if held too low.
* The stress at the neck is minimal, if  you learn to hold the pose properly, with the legs low, and feet over the head.
* Upper back takes the brunt of the pose.
* May even be taught to heart patients after regular yoga practice of other poses. And may be done with prop, and actually help the heart heal. Is sometimes called the cardiac pose for this reason.


Sacred sounds, sacred moments


The moment of peace, when the cows return home. their bells ringing in the evening haze, the smell of raw earth as their hooves kick up dust, and the sense of coming home. The sacred language of Sanskrit has a word for that moment of supreme, special peace - Godhuli. In your spiritual life, there must be such moments. NO more seeking.. returning home. The sacred sounds convey this.. in my singing bowl blog http://healwithsingingbowl.blogspot.in
 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why pranyama works? Your Reptile brain is sorted!!


(The image is from this site)

Its intriguing that I have students who resist pranayama. Obviously, they are the ones who need it the most.

I once had an American lady student, who insisted that I was very strict and set in my ways, because I was not open to her suggestion that I must allow the class to proceed without any structure and just do "what one felt like doing." She gave me a lot of notes by some enlightened yoga instructor who felt that was the way yoga must be done. She felt I was being set and strict and stubborn (ass-headed, she did not say, but implied) and added a sugar-underline to it by claiming she was also like that, but trying to change and I must seek a similar open-mindedness.

But you know, I am not these "do your own yoga thing". I believe there is something mystical and yet scientific about the practice as it was found and has grown along the thousand of years its been around. Partly why it works is because  of elegance of the structure and immense scientific and intuitive instinct that props all of that up to withstand any rational scrutiny.
And I've also learnt that what you resist, possibly is what you need to do the most, on the mat. Plus, it is about impulse control (including  the much-maligned tantra practices which are much-misunderstood) and not about indulgence for the sake of it.

The lady would snivel and snort with fever or cold. Could not do headstand despite claiming to have devoted a life-time to yoga and having learnt it somewhere along the way and resisted surya namaskar. She wandered off, after one long argumentative conversation with me, trying to make me drop my "set" practice. And I was happy to see her go, simply because I was not willing to be converted by her at all.

So yes, over the years I have become adamant about pranayama practices and believe there is no yoga without it. I am also glad that I can manage the essential pranayamas in my hour-long class come what may. And that will take me into the idea of quantum time (for which, you must read the classic Yoga of Time Travel), which I'd like to discuss later on. That time expands to fill your need and if you want to do a five-minute head, and a full practice, including a nidra, it is absolutely possible within an hour. We nowadays have edged up to 40 sun salutes, without being bound by time. I believe that time expansion comes partly from the power of my students and their will towards a strong practice. More on that later.

Here I merely wish to say I am glad I hung on to pranayama in my classes (sadly many yoga classes in Mumbai neglect this crucial practice) because while reading Harish Johari's Tools of Tantra I found this connection as to why it is so important in mind control. Pranayama  works on the brain stem!!

This part has three sub-divisions, which control autonomic functions
* Heart beat
* Blood pressure
* Breathing
* Movement / Co-ordination
* Reticular formation -- subconscious -- also controls sleep
* Controls attention
* Integrates information coming in from the senses (means, there is connection to your reactions)
* In learning, this could define how you classify information that you learn.
In fact, this part of the brain is the oldest, next to the Reptilian brain, and its reactions are automatic and immediate. Working on this is a powerful way to deal with impulse control.


 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hanumanasana:the ultimate stretch


Hanumanasana is an exciting pose for those who wish to gauge themselves on the mat, in terms of hatha practice. It can also show you if you have fallen behind in your practice, as often happens with advanced students who are either too complacent, or too busy teaching others to become advanced (ha ha, and you know who I am talking of:)

So, unless one keeps returning to these poses or builds on them in a rounded fashion by healing existing injuries, or preparing for a pose that you have lost over a few months, one cannot claim to be a teacher. Part of being a good teacher is that you never forget the student in yourself.

So, yes, Hanumanasana teaches you to be a humble teacher. Or a proud one, if you can do it with ease and have become exhibitionist, as can also happen with so many in this zone.  There is always that flipside.

Since my knee injury a few years ago, from kickboxing, that I healed on my own and with my practice, I am a bit chary about stretching that left leg. But I also want it (my leg) to get over its primitive fear of another tear.. so I keep returning to these extreme poses. That leg, even today, when stretched can resist a lot and there are times of course, when I feel nauseated, with the pain that wells up. But you cannot be an effective yoga teacher without a hint of madness and a lot of belief in quantum healing. So, yes, this pose for me is an assertion of all these things.

Many sites and books are going to tell you the physical aspect of the pose, and how to enter it from that angle. But  actually a lot of what a yoga pose talks of, comes from the name given to it, and below I have tried to understand the attitude that must be used to reach this pose, as Lord Hanuman must have felt --  a powerful man who never ever used his powers for himself. The pose speaks of that special quality in him.

What Hanumanasana needs, in terms of attitude:
* A lot of letting go
* A clear assessment of pain in the pose, and understanding where you can take it on, and where you must respect it and move back.
* Loosening up, where you feel yourself stiffening, instead of tightening up.
* Constant urge to deepen the pose as you settle into it, over the pain and then realize the comfort in doing that.
* The attitude of tapas.
* An involution of the mind.
*A settling in, a state of steadiness where it may originally start off in a wobbly fashion.


Yes, this pose is an extreme teacher:)

Happy sadhana!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bliss foods, to fight depression


Depression is a subject close to my heart. I originally started off yoga with a whole "bouquet" of problems-- these included bronchitis, at the physical level, and at the emotional level deep and clinical depression, undiagnosed those days because I simply did not know it was a problem and thought it was personality trait that came from my background - poverty, familial problems as a child etc. . The reason I became awed by yoga and its corresponding sister sciences like Ayurveda (diet) and naturopathy was that it offered cure at a very sensible and commonsensical fashion. It also told me that I was not imagining what I felt, and that I could heal myself if I just continued in the path I was going, including eating the right food. It empowered me by allowing me to be my own healer. It is a puzzle to me why people struggle with yoga -- I mean, it gave me my life back.

Any case, this article in Rediff.com shares some part of the wonder. And it is written with the death of Robin Williams still fresh in my mind -- that a lot of depressives should not be given anti-depression pills because they are addictive, but just be guided firmly along the yoga and Ayurveda path for healing.

And if you did not know it (in a way I should be grateful my clinical depression was not diagnosed, because I would have been smothered with anti-depression medication) these pills, though originally they contain the problem, they actually make you suicidal. Nowadays I am told prescriptions for these are made for children who cannot cope with exam stress!! Horrible..

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Toughest Astavakrasana..


Managed to get this extremely tricky Astavakrasana. It must be its toughest variation yet. You use muscles you have never used before and also first become comfortable with extreme discomfort at the elbow. (Which is a gentle way of saying unnatural pain:)
It is a very "heavy" pose and the body has to struggle with understanding which part of must be used for the lift. Unlike in the basic astavakrasana, where one hand lifts the pose, in this both arms are used, which actually makes it a bit difficult because the weight is not evenly distributed. Also, the pose cannot be entered at this final position. You may have to learn to start by having your forearm on the ground and then lifting up. Then releasing the wrist and palm. Which is all very tricky and asks for frequent shift of weight on the overloaded elbow.

But I believe regular practice of this will help with the scorpion pose which has the similar elbow lift and is called the "chilled out" scorpion pose, I think:)
Happy sadhana!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Astavakrasana, the powerful message of the pose

Here is the message of the Astavakrasana, attributed to a child saint, who was only 12 years old when he revealed his spiritual maturity and wisdom. Here, in a slight rebuke to the aversion expressed by king Janaka on seeing his crooked body, the young boy says:

O King, just as the shape of a temple does not affect the akasa (sky), the crookedness of the physical body has no effect on Atma (Soul). A wise man has Atmadrstii.e. he looks at the Reality behind this manifested world, whereas an ignorant one hasCarma-drsti i.e. he gets lost in names and forms."

What a powerful message, especially when we fail to keep track of yogic philosophy behind each pose...

 

Astavakrasana advanced version: the crooked limb pose, elevated to another level

When I learnt this pose, I was super excited.I  had read the Astavakragita before I learnt the pose and though a small text, it is a very exciting, clear cut treatise that explains the spiritual philosophy of yoga in a concise form.  The story of the crooked limbed saint is also gripping.

I have been teaching the "simpler" version of this pose to my students and realize how much more easy it is than the parsvabakasana (side crow) and many other arm balances, though it looks so complicated. Most of my students pick it up on first attempt, or in the following week, after regular practice. Which just goes to show that in India at least many of these poses are not being taught simply because the teachers are lazy or not as excited about the hatha yoga aspect of the practice. Too much blah, without too much practice makes for a very boring practice.

However, this version is rather tough. It is an upward lift of the legs against gravity and needs very strong oblique muscles and core strength.

* Focus on the oblique muscles to lift up.
* Keeping the hands as straight as possible, when starting off (the lifting arm will bend a bit, to accommodate the legs).
* Keeping the legs -- the bottom leg -- straight and to the side.

It is a very tough pose and very exciting to practice.  The engagement of the oblique muscles kicks into acupressure points that stimulate the nervous system positively, and hits what I prefer to call "joy" points!
* Needs a very strong basic astavakrasana.
* Brahmacharyasana and lolasasana as preparatory poses.
* A steady boat pose too.

HERE ARE A FEW VERSES FROM THIS SITE, from a translation of Astavakragita.  If you try to grasp them, you will finally understand what yoga is about. However, I advise those who wish to read the Astavakragita to pick up the inexpensive translation/interpretation  by Ramakrishna mission(Khar, Mumbai) It is best to read such treatises through several interpretations. The translations may not quite vault you into the stratosphere of thinking which is Indian philosophy:)

A sage said: "First of all I was averse to physical activity, then to lengthy speech, and finally to thinking itself. Trying to think the unthinkable is unnatural to thought."                                                                                         
56. Just as the performance of actions is due to ignorance, so their abandonment is also due to ignorance. 
57. The inner freedom of having nothing is hard to achieve, because it requires living as one pleases, abandoning both renunciation and acquisition.                                                                          
58. Recognising that in reality no action is ever committed, the sage lives as he pleases, just attending to what presents itself to be done. 
59. No benefit or loss ever comes to you, consequently live as you please, abandoning the pleasant and unpleasant.
60. One person of pure intelligence may achieve the goal by the most casual of instructions, while another may seek knowledge all his life and still remain bewildered.  

Happy sadhana!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scorpion pose tidbits

According to Swami Satyanandaji  the scorpion pose(only some facts that are not too well known about the pose is here:)
  1. Reorganises prana around the body
  2. Tones the uro-genital system
  3. Stops the aging process
  4. Rectifies glandular disorders
  5. Is a ajna chakra pose (Third eye/intuition chakra)
Interestingly both the Iyengar book and Swami Satyanandaji's book are using the same words -- verbatim -- to describe how the scorpion pose is a pose of ego subjugation. I wonder who said it first, and if it is a translation from a major text... even so, word to word, the same description!

The easiest of the scorpion variation: baddha vrschikasana (locked scorpion)


Yes, I like teaching the scorpion. But to teach it, you need a basal attitude from the student. An ability to fall and not be overwhelmed by that. Because letting go is the first way to reach the pose. I believe this pose can teach you a lot of things: focus, regular practice, total awareness, and an ability to shift awareness when things are constricting you (as may happen with the breath unless you learn to release it, which means you again invite the chance to fall over:), strength and a sense of not taking anything --including your skills -- for granted. I have seen students who I have taught this, equally, due to lack of practice lose it. Coming from that can be more daunting than learning it for the first time. Though many have attempted it, only a few of my students can stake claim to this pose. Which is sad, because this pose helps you take a leap in yogic awareness.

I have neglected my lotus scorpion for a while. Today tried it and had to feel the struggle of returning to the pose.  So, settled into this locked scorpion, which is the easiest of the variations, if you wish to play around while being lifted aloft.

To this, you need the basic scorpion to be strong and steady.

What B.K. S. Iyengar says about the scorpion:

He says the drawing of the feet towards head creates humility in the practitioner. The head is the seat of power. But it is also the seat of the ego. Drawing the feet (a more flexible person than I, can rest the feet on the  head) towards the head is to create the sense of ego subjugation.

Mmmm..worth a thought!!
 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

R I P Guruji -- remembering B.K.S. Iyengar


In my pre-yoga days I was fortunate enough to visit Iyengar at his  Pune institute, for his 80th birthday celebrations. .
I was given the assignment suddenly, because the journalist who wanted to do that assignment, suddenly ditched. When assignments came suddenly, I had a huge build-up of stress as a mother of a young baby -- her  life and food and care had to be organized just as suddenly. Those days were before mobile made life and connections easier.
My mind, as a mother on the go, was always thinking about my baby -- just five years old then. I was having my periods. I remember even now, that day as a tough one,  multi-tasking and playing multiple roles, catching any first Pune bus, mentally gearing for a long ride, bleeding heavily and uncomfortable with that, and fortified only with some vada pav picked up along the way.  When I landed up, it was tough to have an one-on-one with the great man because a celebratory puja was along the way... and I tried as much to be around where he was, and then, later in the afternoon, when he was at the institute, followed him about.
 I was starving, feeling messy,  was exhausted, worried about my baby very much, and also, as happens at such occasions, felt jostled about, by some "official machinery"  around him.

This article was born of that tough ride:
http://www.outlookindia.com/article/The-IndiaRubber-Man/206695

Then, here, now as a yoga freak who has used Iyengar book all the time, for reference and support and study, my tribute written this morning:
http://www.rediff.com/news/special/b-k-s-iyengar-the-tapasvis-amazing-yoga/20140820.htm